Spanish Art: Exhibitionism
The Prado's renaissance.
At the turn of this century the Prado, Spain's premier art museum, slumbered in neglect.
Limited opening hours and an almost complete lack of information about its paintings seemed calculated to put off visitors.
Deliverance came with a law in 2003 granting it autonomy from the civil service.
Before that the museum's staff ran the place in their own interest and the director had little power, says Eduardo Serra, a former defence minister who as chair of the Prado's trustees pushed the law through.
To implement it he hired Miguel Zugaza, a shrewd manager, as director.
Miguel Falomir, who was appointed as Mr Zugaza's successor on March 21st, inherits a Prado that is flourishing.
It attracts 3m visitors a year.
It has weathered state funding cuts: about 70% of its budget of 45 million euros ($49m) now comes from tickets, merchandising, fees from foreign exhibitions and sponsorship.
Above all, the Prado has shed its provincialism.
“It was very introverted,” says Mr Falomir, an expert on Titian.
It used to mount exhibitions only of Spanish painting.
When it branched out, with shows on Rubens and Titian, colleagues across Europe and America were sceptical.
“Not any more,” he adds.
Last summer's blockbuster exhibition of three-quarters of the surviving work of Hieronymus Bosch was one that only the Prado, with its large Bosch collection, could have organised.
Mr Falomir still faces challenges.
All museums must cope with mass tourism.